Iranian users of both Twitter and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) woke up yesterday to a surprise: the ability for users to access the site without the need for a proxy server or VPN to evade the government firewall that has blocked direct access to these sites for years. That elation was short-lived as today saw the government fix the technical glitch that allowed unfettered access. While some users have enjoyed success with the use of VPNs, the government has also done a decent job blocking access by this means as well.
Facebook and Twitter re-censored after system glitch
Today saw a return to normality in censored service as Tehran once again blocked access to the sites that it shut off in 2009. While new president, Hassan Rouhani, has on numerous occasions promised to end Internet censorship, this has yet to be acted on by his government. Somewhat ironically, a number of his ministers have both Twitter and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) accounts and are quite active on each. This includes the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Censorship due to fear of anti-government protests
The reason for the blocking of these two sites is the belief that they were being used by anti-government protesters to organize demonstrations.
“Hurray, I came to Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) without using VPN,” a user called Bita posted on her wall. “Thank you Rouhani!!!” Bita has yet to post her next message, perhaps owing to the fact that her VPN has now been blocked.
Special police units reinforce Internet censorship
In Iran, Internet censorship is the responsibility of the Supreme Council for Cyberspace. They have blocked millions of sites, while in smaller cities the council has sent a special police unit into Internet users homes warning them not to try to access blocked sites.
Around the time of the Iranian presidential election this June, users faced an even more difficult time accessing sites than usual. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supporters repeatedly fought with officials when a number of sites supporting the former president were blocked.
Even with Ahmadinejad’s departure, anti-Israeli rhetoric still exists in the Tehran government, with a number of politicians recently calling Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) “a Zionist tool” in public comments.
Either way, it seems that Tehran has fixed the glitch that opened the two servers, a relief to VPN providers who count on this censorship to make money.